The Horizon Post Office scandal ‘helped destroy my husband’s health’: Tearful widow of wrongly accused sub-postmaster Peter Holmes who died before his name was cleared claims that stress of allegations had impact on his cancer battle

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A sub-postmaster who died before his name was cleared saw his cancer battle heavily impacted by the Horizon scandal, his widow has claimed.

Peter Holmes had been a sub-postmaster at Jesmond Post Office for 13 years when he was wrongly accused of stealing £46,000 in 2008 and sacked on the spot. 

Mr Holmes’ case went to court in 2010, with the Post Office saying they would drop the theft charge if he pleaded guilty to false accounting, to which he agreed and was given a three-month curfew.

The former police officer died of a brain tumor aged 68 in 2015, six years before he was exonerated in April 2021.  

Marion, Peter’s wife, believes the stress of the scandal likely ‘contributed’ to her husband’s cancer battle, telling Good Morning Britain: ‘It’s difficult to say. There is a lot of study going on between the correlation between stress and cancer. But I think his lifestyle didn’t help. 

‘His love of life was driving. He would drive anybody anywhere. You can’t drive if you don’t have the money. He had to sell his cars and he had nothing to do other than sit on the computer or sit and watch telly. I was working long hours to keep us going. He was on his own all day and I don’t think that helped.’ 

Peter Holmes died of a brain tumor aged 68 in 2015, six years before he was exonerated in April 2021

Peter Holmes died of a brain tumor aged 68 in 2015, six years before he was exonerated in April 2021

Marion Holmes told Good Morning Britain this morning that the Horizon scandal 'contributed' to her husband's cancer battle

Marion Holmes told Good Morning Britain this morning that the Horizon scandal ‘contributed’ to her husband’s cancer battle  

Peter was one of more than 700 sub-postmasters who were given criminal convictions after faulty Fujitsu accounting software, known as Horizon, made it appear as though money was missing from their outlets (pictured with his wife Marion)

Peter was one of more than 700 sub-postmasters who were given criminal convictions after faulty Fujitsu accounting software, known as Horizon, made it appear as though money was missing from their outlets (pictured with his wife Marion)

Peter was one of more than 700 sub-postmasters who were given criminal convictions after faulty Fujitsu accounting software, known as Horizon, made it appear as though money was missing from their outlets. 

A four-part ITV series, Mr Bates vs The Post Office, brought fresh public awareness to the scandal. 

It has been described as the most widespread miscarriage of justice in British history and a public inquiry into it is ongoing.

Marion described the stress her husband was under during investigation by the police and Post Office and remembers hearing the former policeman ‘throwing up in the bathroom’. 

She told GMB: ‘He told me he was “just coughing” but we knew something was wrong. We thought he had something was wrong with his stomach. We never knew that this was what it was.

‘He would say that he couldn’t sleep beyond 4am on balance day. That made me feel guilty because he bottled that up because we knew nothing about that. He kept that to himself and that was the sort of person he was. He didn’t want to admit that anything was wrong and certainly not to me.’ 

Peter had regularly complained to the Post Office about the lack of training given to postmasters for the Horizon software, Marion said.  

When given the chance to avoid time behind bars, Marion said her husband ‘jumped at the chance’ as he knew he stood no chance inside as an ex-policeman and type-one diabetic.

Yesterday, Robert Daily, the former Post Office investigator who brought criminal proceedings against her husband Peter, appeared before the public inquiry into the scandal. 

However, Marion told GMB that she as not impressed by Mr Daily’s performance, saying: ”They all just say “I didn’t know anything about it. I was just doing my job. This is what I was asked to do” nobody is taking responsibility.’

Last week, Gareth Jenkins, the Cambridge maths graduate who served as the architect for the flawed Horizon accounting system, is believed to have requested immunity from prosecution before he gives evidence to the Post Office Inquiry.

Evidence he gave in court that Horizon was ‘not corrupt’ helped to wrongfully convict hundreds of subpostmasters, who are now to be reprieved after their lives were ruined as the Post Office refused to admit responsibility for the scandal. 

A paper released in 2020, known as ‘the Clarke advice’ after Simon Clarke, the Post Office lawyer who authored it, revealed the Post Office had known his evidence was flawed – and it has now emerged they infomed insurers of this a decade ago. 

In the report, Mr Clarke said Mr Jenkins’ credibility as an expert witness was ‘fatally undermined’ because he had allegedly failed to tell a number of trials about the problems with the Horizon system, which he said was ‘not corrupt’. 

It has since emerged that the advice was saved to a document entitled ‘Insurance Risks’ and submitted to the Post Office’s insurers so they were aware of the risks allegedly associated with Mr Jenkins’ testimonies. 

An investigation by Channel 4 News found two Post Office Limited (POL) board meetings discussed the fact insurers had been notified – held on on September 25 and October 31 2013. 

Post Office CEO Paula Vennells (pictured in 2013 during her tenure at the top of the firm) has handed back her CBE following immense public pressure

Post Office CEO Paula Vennells (pictured in 2013 during her tenure at the top of the firm) has handed back her CBE following immense public pressure

Fujitsu IT worker Gareth Jenkins' credibility as an expert witness was 'fatally undermined' by allegedly failing to disclose knowledge of the Horizon system's flaws, according to notes made by the Post Office's own lawyers in 2013

Fujitsu IT worker Gareth Jenkins’ credibility as an expert witness was ‘fatally undermined’ by allegedly failing to disclose knowledge of the Horizon system’s flaws, according to notes made by the Post Office’s own lawyers in 2013

A letter seen by Channel 4 News (pictured) found that legal advice on the evidence of Mr Jenkins had been referred to the Post Office's insurers

A letter seen by Channel 4 News (pictured) found that legal advice on the evidence of Mr Jenkins had been referred to the Post Office’s insurers

Ms Vennells, who was CEO from 2012 until 2019, recently handed back her CBE following a million-strong public petition urging her to return the gong. 

Mr Jenkins’ role in the Horizon scandal, as well as that of another Fujitsu expert, is currently the subject of a Metropolitan Police investigation. 

Scotland Yard has also placed the Post Office itself on watch as it began a criminal investigation into allegations of potential fraud offences. 

He has twice been called to give evidence at the inquiry but on both occasions has been postponed after, each time, the Post Office made last-minute submissions of thousands of documents. 

The software architect has also twice sought an application to the Attorney General, the UK Government’s chief legal adviser, to grant him immunity from prosecution. 

The inquiry also heard that Fujitsu had ‘unrestricted access’ to Post Office branch systems and could make changes without postmasters’ knowledge.

Fujitsu itself has agreed not to pursue any new UK Government contracts while the inquiry continues.

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